India’s fate is tied to the rest of the world


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- How interaction with the rest of the world shaped India


Ever since Independence, India’s fate has been closely tied to the rest of the world.

How global interactions and how it shaped India

  • A large, newly independent, impoverished, and diverse country required active engagement with a variety of partners for its survival, security, and development.
  • But a constantly evolving international environment presented India not just with opportunities but numerous challenges.
  • Poorly demarketed borders: Its frontiers were initially poorly demarcated and poorly integrated.
  • Nuclear-armed neighbours: India came to have two nuclear-armed neighbors with which it competed for territory.
  • Relations with the US and Russia: India’s first leaders opted for flexible and friendly relations with both the U.S. and the Soviet Union and their respective allies.
  • The Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation and the Bangladesh war altered India’s relations with both superpowers and shifted the dynamics of the rivalry with Pakistan.
  • Role in global politics: India also played an activist role in the decolonizing world, extending diplomatic and (in some cases) security assistance to independence movements in Asia and Africa and sending military missions to Korea and the Congo.
  • Economic progress: There were also important economic strides made, including the Green Revolution, undertaken with considerable foreign technical and financial assistance.
  • Independent policy: India often found itself at odds with the great powers when it felt its greater interests were threatened, as on intervention in Bangladesh, nuclear non-proliferation, or trade.

India after the Cold War

  • The 1991 Gulf war resulted in a balance of payments crisis and the liberalization of the economy.
  • India then adopted a range of reforms to liberalize the economy, but it faced more than just economic turmoil.
  • Yet, the period that followed witnessed some important developments under the prime ministership of P.V. Narasimha Rao:
  • The period saw the advent of the Look East Policy and relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • It also saw the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel.
  • The signing of a border peace and tranquility agreement with China took place in the same period
  • The period also witnessed initial military contracts with the U.S., and preparations for nuclear tests.
  • The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government built further upon these developments, conducting a series of tests in 1998, negotiating a return to normal relations with most major powers within two years.
  • Economic development: These years also witnessed a rapid growth of the Indian economy, fuelled by a boom in information and communication technology companies, the services sector, and a rising consumer market.
  • After 2004, the Manmohan Singh government worked extensively to resolve the outstanding question of India’s nuclear status.
  • By eliminating barriers to ‘dual use’ technologies and equipment, as well as a host of associated export controls, India had the opportunity to establish robust defense relations with the U.S. and its allies.
  • Coupled with an economic deceleration after 2011, India’s relations with the U.S. and Europe grew more contentious over the next three years.

Relationship with China

  • The global financial crisis in 2008-09 presaged a slight change in approach, whereby India sought to partner with China and other rising powers on institutional reform, financial lending, climate change, and sovereignty.
  • Beginning in 2013,  China began to test India on the border and undermine Indian interests in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region.
  • With further stand-offs at Doklam and Ladakh between 2017 and 2021, India opted to boycott China’s Belt and Road Initiative, raise barriers to Chinese investment.
  • In response, India began consulting more closely with other balancing powers in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Security relations and understandings with the U.S. and its allies (Japan, France, Australia) accelerated after 2014.
  • A greater emphasis on neighborhood connectivity was adopted.

Way forward

  • As India enters its 75th year of independence, there are plenty of reasons for cautious optimism about its place in the world.
  • COVID-19 and growing international competition also underscore the difficulties that India will likely face as it attempts to transform into a prosperous middle-income country.
  • What is certain is that India will not have the luxury to turn inwards.


India’s objectives have been broadly consistent: development, regional security, a balance of power, and the shaping of international consensus to be more amenable to Indian interests. At the same time, India’s means and the international landscape have changed, as have domestic political factors.

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